Expat Health Insurance

Articles on health insurance expats in China will find useful.

China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

China health insurance: Pros and cons of local vs. international plans

Working abroad in China can be both a wondrous and daunting experience. In a land with such a rich culture and varied terrain, one can easily be captivated by the country’s beauty and color. However, the environmental hazards that have come with modernization and challenges faced by those that are not fluent in Mandarin can certainly take a toll on China newbies. Perhaps this is no better exemplified than the Chinese healthcare system, where greatly varying levels of care and foreigner-friendliness can leave expats guessing as to which direction to go. On top of the issue of medical care, there is also the issue of payment. That’s why it’s good to have an overview of the pros and cons of both international and local China health insurance plans, which Pacific Prime China provides below.

China health insurance

Before getting into the pros and cons of each type of plan, it would be good to mention the pros and cons of insurance policies themselves. This gives us a good base of knowledge before we focus on the finer aspects of local vs. international health insurance.

Pros

  • Having private China health insurance allows for access to private healthcare facilities with doctors that speak languages from all over the world. If your medical Mandarin is far from fluent, this is going to go a long way towards helping put you at ease should you need to visit the hospital with a serious condition. After all, effective communication with medical professionals is a must when it comes to effectively addressing your own health needs.
  • Another advantage of accessing private hospitals in China is the shorter waiting times that are found there. This will ensure that you are not placed on a waiting list to receive treatment should the hospital deem it to not be an emergency. Private hospitals will treat you quickly and efficiently.
  • Finally, private hospitals, while they cost more for treatment, generally provide a higher quality of care for their patients. This is due to their possession of the latest medical equipment, as well as internationally trained medical staff.

Cons

Medical insurance isn’t without its drawbacks, including the following:

  • Pre-existing conditions
  • Exclusions
  • Age limits

However, depending on your specific needs, there may be plans available that address these items.

Now let’s dig into the differences between local and international China health insurance.

Local insurance

Pro

By far the biggest advantage of sticking with a local insurance plan is that it will always come with a lower price tag. Since medical costs are well controlled in China, insurers recognize that the risk to them when it comes to covering said costs are not as high. Comparatively, places like the United States and Hong Kong have some of the most expensive healthcare in the world. Therefore, if an insurance company provides global coverage, they are opening themselves up to greater risk, so they charge a higher premium.

Con

As alluded to above, local China health insurance plans only provide healthcare coverage inside of China. This means that if you were to travel anywhere outside of Mainland China’s borders, you will not have any health insurance coverage with your local plan, and will have to pay for treatment out of pocket unless you secure a separate insurance plan.

International insurance

Pros

  • Pretty much the main reason to purchase an international health insurance plan is the freedom of choice that it affords you. Not only can you travel to virtually any country worldwide in order to receive medical treatment, you can also choose any hospital or doctor worldwide as well. You will never have to think, “I wonder if they’ll even treat me in this country,” because you will always have proof that you are covered by a reputable global insurance company.
  • Another often overlooked feature of international health insurance plans is that you can take your policy with you no matter where you go. With local insurance plans, if you or your family decides to move outside of China permanently, you will have to purchase a new insurance policy in your new home country. Under this scenario, any conditions developed while on your local China insurance plan will likely be treated as pre-existing conditions by the next insurer, and coverage will not be able to be obtained in many cases. However, with an international plan, you can simply take your plan with you and still receive full coverage.
  • Finally, there are features that you can find in an international health insurance plan that are not present in local plans. For example, medical evacuation is included in international plans. This feature will relocate you to the nearest appropriate medical facility if the one you are in is ill equipped to address your medical needs. If possible, you may even be able to be flown home for treatment. Many international plans also come with 24 hour customer assistance that will help you make medical arrangements when you are abroad. The assistance this service provides can certainly be invaluable.

Con

Again costs are higher when it comes to international health insurance. You do potentially get a whole world more out of your plan, but you need to make sure that an international health insurance plan is right for you. If you rarely travel, a plan with global coverage may be unnecessary. However, if you do find yourself outside of the country regularly, this type of plan may be ideal for you.

Regardless of which type of insurance is right for you, Pacific Prime China can help. We specialize in international health insurance plans that provide coverage both in your country of residence, as well as virtually anywhere else in the world. Of course, we also sell local plans that will address costs only in China for a lower premium. For more information, contact the helpful insurance advisers at Pacific Prime China today! They are standing by to answer any of your questions, provide you with plan comparisons from some of China’s best insurance companies, and give you a free price quote.

Posted by Travis Jones in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China

Having the healthiest pregnancy possible in China

It can be daunting having a baby away from your home country, especially when considering that the Chinese healthcare system is likely very different from what you’re used to back home. There are a number of things you’ll need to consider in ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible in China, one of the major considerations being that you have access to modern facilities so that you are able to receive quality prenatal care prior to giving birth. The good news is that the quality of healthcare in China is improving at a rapid rate, especially after foreign entities have been allowed to invest in private hospitals since 2012.

This article sheds light on what you need to know about hospitals in China, and offers a number of tips on ensuring that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Healthcare facilities in China

An essential aspect of maintaining a healthy pregnancy is ensuring that you have access to quality medical services during the whole course of your pregnancy. Usually, in the beginning stages of your pregnancy you would expect scans and consultations with an ob/gyn every 4 to 6 weeks, and then increase the frequency of your visits to once every week or once every 2 weeks closer to your delivery date.

Public hospitals

Most cities in China will have direct access to a range of public hospitals. While public hospitals charge much cheaper fees than private hospitals, the quality of service and cleanliness levels in these facilities vary greatly, and the imposing language barrier and long waiting times tend to dissuade the majority of expats from seeking public medical care.

Private and international hospitals

Most expats living in tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai will benefit from the wide selection of Western-style private clinics available. Private facilities offer a number of perks such as much shorter waiting times, quality of care that is on par with Western standards, and English-speaking medical staff.

It’s important to note that the fees charged in these facilities are significantly more expensive than the prices in public hospitals – expect to pay around CNY 4,000 for an ultrasound, and up to CNY 100,000 for a C-section delivery package!

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

You may also want to consider seeking Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment. Traditional Chinese practices such as acupuncture and Chinese medicine are very popular among Chinese women – they are considered safe practices and are also quite effective in maintaining a healthy pregnancy and alleviating a range of uncomfortable symptoms such as fatigue and nausea.

For example, acupuncture is often used to manage pain and prepare the uterus and cervix for birth. There are also a plethora of TCM treatments available that help promote the health and development of the fetus.

Maintaining a healthy diet during your pregnancy

In order to ensure that you and your baby are receiving all the nutrients needed, it’s important that you consume foods that are rich with folic acid, iron, calcium, protein, and other important vitamins and minerals.

Moms-to-be are advised to add around 300 calories on top of their normal recommended daily intake during the second trimester of their pregnancy, and increase this to 500 calories during your third trimester.

Recommended foods include fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and whole grains. It’s best to avoid caffeine and highly advised to stay away from alcohol, as drinking alcohol during your pregnancy may lead to a number of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Try to reduce your exposure to pollution

As mentioned in last month’s article on reducing the harmful health risks of air pollution in China, certain groups of people are more susceptible to the harmful health effects of pollution, and that includes pregnant women. Recent research has linked prenatal exposure to ambient levels of air pollution with an increased risk of low birth weight and infant mortality, mainly due to its harmful cardiovascular and respiratory effects on both the mother and the newborn.

Major cities in China are known for its toxic levels of air pollution, so if you’re planning to stay in China during your pregnancy, it’s highly important that you try to reduce your exposure to pollution by staying indoors and away from heavily trafficked roads when your area’s Air Quality Index (AQI) reaches the high health risk category. You can check your area’s real-time AQI here.

Securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy

Moms-to-be are highly advised to secure maternity insurance to offset the high cost of pregnancy in China. The importance of securing maternity insurance early enough on your policy cannot be stressed enough. The reason for this is because maternity benefits are attached with a waiting period usually lasting 10-12 months, so you’ll need to plan ahead before starting a family if you want to ensure that your maternity costs are covered.

If you’re already pregnant and would like coverage for your newborn, you may still be able to secure a New Born Child benefit as this will usually have a shorter waiting period – some as short as 6 months.

If you’ve got any further questions regarding maternity insurance or would like some insurance or maternity-related advice, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts (and moms!) at Pacific Prime China today.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
Insurance options for kids going to school overseas

Insurance options for kids going to school overseas

If you are planning on sending your child overseas for education, you undoubtedly already know there are a number of things to consider. One such thing to consider is your child will need health insurance. Here, we take a look at the common solutions available to parents whose children will be traveling abroad.

 

Common insurance solutions for students studying abroad

When going abroad for work or study there are usually a number of health insurance solutions available for people to consider. Here is an overview of the 3 most common types of health insurance secured by students studying abroad.

Travel insurance

These plans are designed to provide emergency medical cover to people while they are outside of their own country. Generally speaking, most travel insurance plans are a set period in length, usually providing cover for either individual trips of up to a set number of days or numerous trips of a set length (usually less than 30-60 days) over one year.  

Travel insurance plans are popular for students studying abroad not only because they offer medical coverage but they also cover other travel related incidents such as flight delays, lost luggage, and even emergency medical evacuation back to your home country.

The one thing to be aware of with these plans is that they are not designed to provide elective medical care while overseas, rather they are designed for medical emergencies and provide just enough coverage to see you well enough to return to your home country. If you plan on going to the doctor while studying abroad, the visit likely will not be covered by this plan.

Health insurance from a local provider

Almost every country popular with students will offer some form of local insurance. These plans are designed to provide citizens and residents of these countries with adequate health insurance coverage in that country only.

Generally speaking, there are two types of local insurance available in most countries:

  • Local plan offered by a private insurer – These are plans designed and sold for and to local markets by insurers who have licenses to operate within that country.
  • Coverage provided by the government – These are plans or coverage offered by the local government.

As mentioned above, local health insurance plans are designed to provide adequate coverage for most residents. In most cases, people with these plans will be visiting the public health sector which in many countries is subsidized by the government. As such, you will usually find that these plans have relatively low levels of coverage, or have limits placed on the amount you can claim for care.    

It should also be noted here that while many countries have health care or health insurance sponsored by the government, there are usually strict requirements as to who is eligible for this type of care. A good example of this would be Singapore with their Medisave program. Permanent residents and citizens of Singapore pay a percentage of their monthly income into a savings account that can then be used to cover the cost of healthcare for themselves and their family.

This savings account is not available for foreigners, which means their children would also not be able to benefit from the offsetting. If they were to get sick, they would need to pay the full cost to see a doctor.

Another example of this would be in Canada where all citizens and many residents have access to provincial health care, and students are required to have health insurance. The issue is, in some provinces, foreigners are not eligible for provincial insurance. This means that you will need to secure a plan from a private insurer.  

Health insurance from an international provider

The other common option for students going abroad is an international health insurance plan. These plans, offered by the global or international branches of major insurers, provide worldwide coverage. In other words, your child will be covered in your home country, the country they study in, and any country they may visit while overseas.

International health insurance plans are also designed to offer high coverage limits which means you can visit nearly any medical center and receive quality health care. These plans are popular with many expat families and companies who send their employees overseas as they afford the policyholder the ability to visit top quality healthcare.

The main concern many people have with these plans is that they are considerably more expensive than local or travel coverage.

 

Does my child actually need insurance while studying abroad?

This can actually be a fairly tough question to find a concrete answer to. Some schools and countries will require a valid insurance plan to be secured in order for a visa to be issued while others will simply recommend it.

For example, if your child is going to the going to school in the US, it is mandatory for some student visa holders to secure health insurance coverage that meets ACA (Affordable Care Act) requirements within the US.

One of the best pieces of advice we can offer is that it would be a good idea to contact the university or school your child will be attending. The reason for this is that some schools will actually offer coverage as part of the school fees. This is particularly common for schools in the UK, Canada, Australia, and even some in the US. These plans are usually local cover only and are affordable, however they may not be available to some students or will often have fairly strict limits and rules attached to how the plan can be used.

And of course, in many cases, it would be advised to secure a health insurance plan for your child in case they get sick and need to visit a doctor.  

 

Which health insurance plans should I purchase for my child?

In Pacific Prime China’s experience, it would be advisable to secure both a travel insurance and an international health insurance plan. The reasoning behind this is that the travel insurance plan will cover your child while they are traveling between your home country and the country their school is located in. There is always a chance that their luggage could be lost, or there will be delays while traveling (especially during the winter in the northern hemisphere) and having coverage to help offset the additional costs these bring can be a big help.

When it comes to actually living in their new country, an international health insurance plan will help cover the costs of any care needed. This is especially important in countries like Hong Kong, Canada, the UK, and the US, where the cost of health care can be prohibitively expensive if you don’t have access to the government/public health subsidies. These plans will also cover your child when they are at home and can have additional coverage elements like dental, and vision added thereby allowing your child to visit a dentist while they are at home on break.

One of the major advantages an international health insurance plan offers for children studying overseas is the fact that they will usually have emergency evacuation coverage. This means that if your child gets sick while at school you may be able to get them moved back to their home country, or a location where relatives are who can help them recover.

If you are looking for a health insurance solution that will cover your child while they are overseas, contact Pacific Prime China today. Our experts will be happy to discuss your options and help you find a plan that meets your whole family’s needs.   

Posted by rmcbroom in Expat Health Insurance, General Insurance
5 tips for getting the most out of your health checkup in China

5 tips for getting the most out of your health checkup in China

The importance of maintaining good health continues to take central precedence in the Chinese government’s reforms, and this has been exemplified in the “Healthy China 2030” blueprint released in October, which sets out to improve health literacy in the country. As reported by Xinhua News, Premier Li Keqiang has announced in the Ninth Global Conference on Health Promotion that the current average life expectancy in China is 76.3, beating many middle and high income countries.

With the Healthy China initiative, China hopes to raise the average life expectancy to 79 by 2030. In ensuring that this ambitious goal is reached, the Chinese government has been distributing brochures offering health advice to the public by advocating healthy habits, chief among them being the importance of regular health checkups.

As the age-old saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. Undergoing regular checkups is important in helping you identify any health concerns you may have before they develop into long term chronic illnesses. With new year’s just around the corner, it’s time to include regular medical exams in your resolutions! This article by Pacific Prime China reveals how to get the most out of your health checkup.

Be prepared for your checkup

To get the most out of your checkup, there are a few things you can do before your appointment so that your doctor can better address any specific areas of concern you may have:

  • Notify your clinic/ doctor about problem areas that you’re concerned about before your appointment. By doing so, your doctor will be better prepared for your checkup beforehand and can then adjust the duration of your appointment accordingly.
  • Prepare previous health records if you’re visiting the clinic for the first time. This can help your doctor by providing key insights on your medical history.
  • Be prepared to provide information on your family’s health history. Do certain diseases run in your family? It may be a good idea to write these down, especially if it’s your first time visiting a particular clinic.
  • Think about questions you may have regarding your body. Have you noticed anything unusual, like new moles or lumps on your body? It’s worth jotting these down.
  • Prepare a list of medications that you’ve been taking – it’s important to let your doctor know what medications you are on, including non-prescription drugs like supplements. This may help reduce the chances of negative interactions between any newly introduced medications and your current medication.

Don’t forget cancer screenings

With regular cancer screenings, any abnormal cells that may turn into cancer will be detected. It may be daunting to undergo these screenings, but detecting any abnormalities as early as possible can really save your life. Here are some of the most common types of cancer screenings:

  • Mammograms to detect breast cancer.
  • Pap test (for women) to identify abnormal cells that may turn into cervical cancer.
  • Screening tests for colon cancer – this is especially important for adults above 50 years old, people with a family history of colon cancer, and people with inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Low-dose computed tomography scans to detect lung cancer. This is especially recommended for people with a history of heavy smoking.

Don’t hesitate to address any embarrassing symptoms

Some people prefer to avoid talking about embarrassing symptoms or illnesses as they consider these a social taboo, but it’s important to be as honest as possible. Doctors deal with and talk about these problem areas every day and are there to provide their professional help. If you’re feeling too uncomfortable, it might help to invite a close friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment.

Mental health is also important

With 180 million people in China suffering from psychiatric disorders, there’s a pressing need to address mental health issues in this country. If you’ve been feeling particularly stressed or unhappy, don’t forget to mention this during your checkup, as your doctor can help refer you to a relevant professional so that, if appropriate, you can proceed with therapy and other forms of treatment.

Make sure your health insurance plan covers checkups

Checkups can be expensive (especially in private and international hospitals), which is why it’s important to check if this is covered by your health insurance plan. Some plans may only cover a percentage of the cost of the checkup, and other plans may cover only basic checkups. Another thing to be aware of is your plan’s preferred network of providers. If you’re going to a clinic that is not listed under your plan’s in-network, you will likely face issues when filing claims.

If you’re unsure of what exactly is covered by your plan or would like some further information, feel free to contact us today.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance
A newcomer’s guide to health insurance in China

A newcomer’s guide to health insurance in China

Welcome to China! As part of your settling-in process, you will no doubt have many arrangements to consider once you’ve moved here, healthcare being a factor that will likely take central precedence.

After the Chinese government started allowing investment in private hospitals from foreign entities in 2012, the quality of medical care in China continues to flourish. Government spending within the healthcare sector is expected to reach US $1 trillion by 2020, which is a stark contrast from the 2011 figure of US $357 billion.

While it is not a legal requirement to purchase health insurance in China, most expats will find the need for a private health insurance plan so that they can enjoy coverage for the high cost of superior medical care charged in private facilities. Navigating through the diverse range of available health insurance options can be daunting for anyone, but Pacific Prime China is here to help with this handy newcomer’s guide.

Background on healthcare in China

It’s highly advised that any expat looking for health insurance in China are aware of the healthcare landscape in this country.

Common health problems in China

It might be scary to think about, but all expats in China should be aware of the common health problems faced by people living in this country. For example, air pollution is a big issue in major cities, with an average of 90 out of every 100,000 projected premature deaths in the 31 provincial capitals caused by diseases specific to air pollution, such as lung cancer and ischemic heart disease. Due to urbanization, and changes in diet and lifestyle, a number of other non-communicable diseases (e.g. diabetes) are also on the rise. With this in mind, it’s also important to know about medical treatment costs in China.

Medical treatment can be costly

Expats will tend to visit private or international hospitals to benefit from modern care that is comparable to the West, but this comes with a steep price tag. A trip to the GP at one of these facilities can easily set you back by RM ¥1,200 to ¥1,500, with prices charged for specialist appointments being significantly more expensive.

Expect to pay around ¥50,000 for an emergency surgical procedure and up to an astounding ¥98,000 for a C-section maternity package. Sometimes, the requirement for medical treatment can’t be planned (especially in the case of emergencies) so having that additional ‘safety net’ by securing a private health insurance policy may save you from breaking the bank.

Coverage levels available in China

All insurance plans will provide varying levels of coverage, below are the main types of coverage:

  • Inpatient only: With an inpatient only benefit, you will be covered for overnight treatment at a hospital, but will not be covered for outpatient treatment such as day trips to the GP. Inpatient care is typically the most expensive, so being secured with this type of benefit can really save you a lot of money. The premiums charged for inpatient only plans are usually the cheapest, as it comes with the least amount of coverage.
  • Inpatient + outpatient: This type of plan includes coverage for both inpatient and outpatient care, so you’ll also be covered for medical care that does not require overnight stays at a hospital. Policyholders with this type of coverage will often also be covered for preventative care check-ups, tests, and vaccinations. Please note that premiums charged for this type of plan will typically be higher than an inpatient only plan.
  • Full coverage: If you’re looking for additional benefits on top of your inpatient and outpatient plan, then it’s a good idea to look out for full coverage plans offering add-ons such as maternity, vision, and dental cover. Insurance providers often refer to these additional benefits as “riders”. These benefits will usually come with a waiting period, also commonly referred to as a moratorium period, meaning that there will be a set period of time before the policyholder can make any claims on the benefit.

Local or international health insurance?

When shopping around for health insurance in China, you’ll also have to think about whether you want to purchase a local or international plan. Here’s what you need to know about each type of plan:

Local health insurance

As the name suggests, this type of insurance will cover you locally (in China). Some plans may even only provide coverage in one particular province or state.  This means that if you’re travelling overseas and want to be covered for treatment, you will need to buy a travel policy. Please note that for travel policies, coverage limits are usually very low, and they typically cover emergency treatments and repatriation costs only. Premiums for this type of policy are lower than international plans simply because the region of coverage is much lower.

International health insurance

If you’re looking for worldwide coverage, this type of plan is ideal for you. International plans are designed specifically for globally mobile expats, as it provides a great deal of flexibility in where you can be treated. For example, if you were to seek treatment in a country that may not be as medically advanced, an international plan will cover your medical fees if you decided to seek treatment in a country with more advanced healthcare instead. Please note that the majority of international health plans will not comply with the US Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations, so if you’re a US taxpayer, you may want to consider an ACA compliant international plan.

Talk to a licensed insurance advisor

A respected insurance advisor like Pacific Prime China will offer a wealth of expertise as well as unbiased advice that will be very valuable in helping you find the best value deal available. Reputed insurance brokers have close relationships with leading insurance providers, meaning that they will be able to provide competitive rates that can sometimes be cheaper than going directly to an insurance company. There’s also the added bonus of benefiting from additional services often provided by brokers, such as dedicated customer services support and renewals teams.

If you’re looking for advice on health insurance in China, feel free to contact us or use our online tool to compare quotes today.

Posted by Jess in Expat Health Insurance, Health Insurance